Teacher Meme

December 8th, 2009

This has been sitting in my inbox for a while. And since it’s 12:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep, I’ll play.

I am a good teacher because I hold my class to high expectations. Everyone can learn and everyone is expected to learn. Everyone in the class may not learn at the same rate or even learn the same concepts but I promise by the end of the school year everyone will have learned something.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be a librarian. Specifically a Children’s Librarian in a public library. I love the idea of helping kids discover new worlds in books. And I love the smell of libraries.

My teaching style is just me. I can’t subscribe to one philosophy of teaching. I’ve got 20 students in my class that all learn and respond a different way. I need to do what works for each of them. I will say this. My co-teacher and I are the “mean” kindergarten teachers. We don’t fall for the crying your way out of it and we give the office and other teaching staff strict instructions not to baby our students. Because let me tell you, kindergarteners know how to work the system.

My classroom is loud. Well, what do you think happens when you put 16-20 5-year-olds in one room. It’s loud and to the untrained eye looks very chaotic but it’s organized chaos. I can get their attention at the drop of a hat. They know the rules and routines because of the consistency and are pretty much self-sufficent.

My lesson plans are hahahahahahaha. I have a general outline most the time I prefer to “wing-it”. I’ll have a great idea for a lesson plan, start to teach and a student will ask a question, which prompts another question and another and pretty soon my lesson on snow becomes a lesson on how the solar system works.

One of my teaching goals is to make sure every student in my class has a voice. I don’t want any student looking back and thinking they were never given a chance to share their ideas.

The toughest part of teaching is explaining to people why teaching kindergarten is not an easy job. If you think you can make it as a kindergarten teacher I will gladly let you come and teach my class for a day while I sit at my desk, smile and shake my head.

The thing I love most about teaching is summer vacation. You thought I was going to say my students, didn’t you? I do love my students. But just when you are completely fed up with your class and can’t take it anymore, summer vacation begins. And by the time it’s over I miss my classroom. I miss the kids and I want to be back.

The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching is First you work on classroom expectations, then you work on academics. Spend the first 3-6 weeks focusing only on behavior. Model everything. Work with your students to create expectations for the classroom. Build a community. Once that is established the academics come easy. You can now focus your energy on teaching and not worrying about who’s poking who with a pencil.

NaBloPoMo Post #23: A New Focus on Education

November 22nd, 2009

I heard a story on NPR this morning on education. I’m waiting for it to be posted online so I can listen to it again because it was hard to catch all the details with Lexi chattering in the backseat. Plus, it was an hour long interview and I was in the car for 15 minutes.

Anyway, if I heard correctly, I’m pretty excited about this research. The basic focus is taking some steps backwards in education. There should be much less of a focus on what we learn and more of a focus on how we learn. Because the content of what we learn will be quickly forgotten and we can always look up the facts later. But how we learn, how we aquire and retain knowledge, that should be the focus. Test scores, homework, grades…that’s not where the focus should be.

The focus should be on the whole person. Bring back the arts, music, dance. More enrichment. By developing these talents that a person naturally has, it helps to develop the section of the brain that allows a person to retain information (this is where Lexi started asking about 10000 qestions about where birds live so I missed a lot of the technical stuff). But I think the gist of it was that if a person develops their natural talents it stimulates a certain section of the brain and that, in turn, allows a persons ability to learn to increase.

Tomorrow, I’m going to to be looking around for more information on this. I promise, links to sources will be coming as well as more details on the research. But it was fascinating to hear. The whole concept was something I’d like to see put into practice in our schools. I disagree with how much emphasis is put on memorizing facts for a test and how little time students get to do something other than academics. One thing I know I heard was the emphasis that play is an important part of the learning process and should not be elimated from the school day.

May 7 is World AIDS Orphan Day

May 7th, 2009

I started writing a post about this but Erin says everything I want to say and says it much better. And huge bonus, she has graciously let people copy her post and link to her blog.


Tomorrow, May 7,  is World AIDS Orphans Day. World AIDS Orphans Day is a grassroots campaign to draw attention to and advocate on behalf of the millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

Here are some of the staggering facts. Please read them… please really stop and think a minute about these statistics.

  • There are over 15 million children orphaned by AIDS living around the world RIGHT NOW. 15 million is the equivalent to the number of all of the people living in New York, Paris, and Bangkok combined. That is an awful lot of children.
  • Well over 12 million AIDS orphans live in Sub-Saharan Africa, alone.
  • Experts believe that millions more orphans remain unaccounted for in India, China and Russia.
  • At least 10 million more children will be orphans by AIDS by 2010.

Do you know how many TOTAL global confirmed cases of the swine flu there have been? As of today (May 6), there have been 1,516 cases. Do you know how many people, world wide, have died of the swine flu as of today?? 31. And look at all the hype… all the action… all the caring.

Do you know how many people around the world DIED of HIV/AIDS in 2007? An estimated TWO MILLION people. That is over 5,400 people a day, dieing of HIV/AIDS. It has been estimated that now, in 2009, 6,500 people will die every day from AIDS, and an estimated 6,000 of those people will leave behind children when they die.

So today, another 6,000 children will be added to the already 15 million children world wide who have been orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The result of being orphaned by AIDS is heart-breaking for these children. From the World AIDS Orphans Day website:

  • In addition to the trauma of losing a parent, orphans are often subject to discrimination and are less likely to receive healthcare, education and other needed services.
  • In HIV affected households lacking community support, food consumption can drop by 40% putting children at risk to hunger, malnutrition and stunting.
  • Impoverished and often without support to educate and protect them, orphans and vulnerable children face increased risk of HIV infection. (And there are already an estimated 2 million children currently living with HIV).
  • Orphans are often easy prey to many forms of exploitation: forced labor, prostitution and child soldiering.

In the United States, if a child loses a parent to accident or illness, it is considered a terrible tragedy. Such stories are covered by the media, communities mourn and show their support, etc. In Sub-Saharan Africa, parents dieing is a normal part of life. It is still a terrible tragedy for those children, but it happens so often that no one else really pays any attention.

And do you know what makes this really, truly horrible? Do you know what makes my gut twist and my heart ache? HIV IS COMPLETELY TREATABLE.

If a person contracts HIV in the United States or another country where there is treatment readily available, they have an excellent long term prognosis. Most HIV+ people receiving treatment now have close to normal life expectancies and can live in good overall health.  With treatment, HIV+ children can be healthy and happy. They can go to school, grow up, go to college, have (healthy!) children, and live long enough to raise them and beyond. Without treatment, an estimated 50% of HIV+ children will die before the hit their second birthday. My Solomon was almost one of those 50%.

HIV does not have to be a death sentence, and yet for thousands of people every day, it is, because the world doesn’t care enough to really do something about it.

Can you imagine for one minute if some terrible disease struck the United States (or whatever country you live in) and was killing thousands and orphaning thousands every day? Can you imagine if another country had treatment that could lead to good health and a long life, but it just was too expensive or too difficult or too much trouble to get that medicine to us? We wouldn’t stand for it.

So why do we stand for it now?

I can’t wrap my head around what 15 million orphans looks like. I can barely wrap my head around the 100 or so HIV+ orphans that I am trying to find adoptive families for. The numbers are staggering, and so is the need for action. Children are the future of our world, and I shudder to think about what this world will be like with so many millions of children growing up without the love and security of a family… and way too often growing up without adequate food, education and medical care.  Where does that leave all of us?

Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US said,

“I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation. I look at my parents and ask, where were they during the civil rights movement? I look at my grandparents and ask, what were they doing when the holocaust in Europe was occurring with regard to the Jews, and why didn’t they speak up? And when we think of our great, great, great-grandparents, we think how could they have sat by and allowed slavery to exist? And I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa?”

I know that it feels like the problem is way too big for us to really do anything to make a difference, but I know with all my heart that touching the life of just one, just ONE, child can truly make a difference. And if everyone touched the life of just one child, we could reach them all.

Here are some ways that you can help touch the life of an AIDS orphan this World AIDS Orphans Day.

- Get educated. One of the biggest roadblocks in getting people to care and take action is the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. This is not a disease that only strikes those who “deserve it” (yes, that is really how some people think!). This is a disease that strikes men, women and children… it strikes heterosexuals and homosexuals, it strikes people of all races and social classes and it strikes people in all countries. HIV/AIDS is a HUMAN problem.

Fear is another big roadblock. HIV can not be transmitted in any casual way, and people that are HIV+ are not a threat to those around them. HIV can only be transmitted through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles).

I have written a ton about HIV/AIDS, and you can find those posts here. Once you are educated, join my Tell Two Campaign and share the truth about HIV/AIDS with others.

Two excellent books to read about the HIV/AIDS crisis and the orphan crisis are There is No Me Without You and  28 Stories of AIDS in Africa.

- Sponsor an AIDS orphan. There are many wonderful organizations out there that allow you to sponsor a child for a very low cost per month. Doing so makes a great difference in the life of that child, and getting to know the child you sponsor through pictures, updates, letters, etc. will have a great impact on your life as well. I promise. Two wonderful organizations that I work with are AHOPE for Children (which supports AHOPE Ethiopia, a home and community support program for HIV+ children in Ethiopia) and Hardthaven, a home for AIDS orphans in Ghana. I know that financially times are hard for many right now, but we  live better than most people in the world and would have to sacrifice very very little to sponsor (and truly help) an orphaned child.

- Consider adopting. Adoption is only an option for a tiny percentage of the 15 million AIDS orphans around the world and it is certainly not the solution to the AIDS crisis or the orphan crisis, but for the tiny percentage of children who do get adopted, it changes their world and their future dramatically (and for the adoptive parents, it is equally amazing).  There are agencies and programs placing healthy and special needs orphans from all over the world with new families. If your heart may be open to adopting an HIV+ child, I have about 100 amazing children of all ages waiting for a second chance at love, family and life.

You can read here why I believe in adoption, and you can read here why I feel so passionately about adoption for HIV+ children.

- Support From HIV to Home, an organization that helps provide care for HIV+ orphans and supports and helps parents adopting HIV+ children. They have a wonderful program to help raise money for parents adopting HIV+ children called Kids Walking Kids Home.

- Support Project HOPEFUL, whose mission is to “encourage, educate and enable parents adopting children with HIV/AIDS”.

- Visit the World AIDS Orphans website for other ways to touch your heart, get educated and get involved.

Please feel free to share this post anywhere you see fit. Thanks for reading.

Advent. And Water.

December 1st, 2008

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. The four weeks building up to Christmas. In honor of the Advent Season I’m posting this video. I’m sure you’ve seen on ten other blogs by now but I hope it makes you reconsider how you’ll spend this Christmas season.

This is idea, to give the world clean water, has really hit home with me in a lot of very real ways. The kids at school either know someone who is sick from lack of clean water or remember hiking to carry water or have heard their parents talk about trying to find clean water or have had a family member die due to lack of clean water. That statistic about 1 in 6 people not having access to clean water, well almost the parents at our school were that 1. Right now we are working to raise money to dig a well for a school in Africa.

And I think about Ethiopia. We are continuously warned not to drink the water when we go. Makes me wonder, if Ethiopia had clean water how many fewer parents would have to make the heart breaking choice to relinquish their baby?

Need a place to donate? Try here.

And if you need ideas for my gift this year. Go here.

This may jinx it, but…

September 13th, 2008

…my kindergarten class is pretty good this year. Some of you may remember last year’s boot camp. Last year redefined “difficult students” and I came into this year prepared for the worst. I know that I shouldn’t let my opinion of last year’s class influence my opinion of this year’s class but you didn’t meet last year’s class.

This year however…three weeks into the school year and my pro’s list is longer than my con’s list.

The pro’s:

  • They have volume control. This is huge. I can actually say 1 time to the class “use your #1 voice” and for the remainder of the work time all you hear is the low hum of 5 year olds working.
  • They raise their hands before talking
  • They can be trusted to go to the bathroom without me.
  • I can leave the room for 5 minutes and when I come back they are in the same spots I’ve left them.
  • They rest at rest time.
  • They attempt to do their work before asking me for help.
  • They don’t tattle (much).
  • They clean up without tearing around the room and shrieking.
  • It only took me a week to teach them the routine of the room.
  • They remember the routine.
  • When I do have to discipline the whole class by making them practice, they actually realize that if they fix the problem, the punishment is over.

The cons are few and far between. Their biggest issue is lining up. They can walk in a line just fine. They can line up in the hallway just fine but for whatever reason lining up in our classroom or the lunch room causes them to forget all common sense, forget all rules, forget their spots in line and start with the pushing and the shoving and the worrying about who gets to be first (even though we have a line leader everyday). I’m not really sure why they do this but trust me, we’ll be working on this next week.

As far as the kids go, for the most part they are great. There are only 3 that drive me crazy on a regular basis.

I have the younger sister of one of my boys from last year. And she makes her brother look like a saint. Her current favorite activities in class – starting laughing (while I’m talking) just to see how many kids she can get laughing, doing opposite of what I tell the class (for example Me: I need everyone to cross their legs, please. Her: (looks directly at me and sticks her legs straight out).), and in general making a mental list on how many ways she can irritate me in a single day.

The next kid is only going to be difficult for a few more weeks. He understands English but can barely speak it so his behavior is due to the language barrier and at 6 weeks (almost to the day) every non-English speaker I’ve had has started speaking enough English to feel confident enough to participate in the class. And we had a huge break through on Friday. He learned the phrase “what’s that?” so now, he points and asks that about 300 times a day but it’s better than him not having a clue as to what’s going on and chucking stuff across the room out of frustration. Also, next week the ESL teachers start doing pull-out work and lucky for the kindergarteners our ESL teacher speaks both English and Somali so they really like working with her.

And my third is a boy who has made it very obvious that I am clearly a serious inconvenience in his life. Some examples:

Me: A-M, please stop talking we are waiting for you.

A-M: (in a very exasperated tone) Okay. Fine. (and then the talking starts right back up again).


Me: A-M, you need to clean up. I already asked you once and [math, art, learning labs, journaling] is over now. You need to stop and clean up.

A-M: (eyes rolling) Uugh, okay, okay. Fine. (and continues to do what I asked him to stop).

Basically, I’m just in the way of him doing whatever he feels like doing. I’ve already told him that I was going to have to call and talk to his dad about the way he is acting and he looked right at me and said “my dad let’s me stop when I want.” Great. So now I have to fix the behavior of the parent and the kid. Well, it’s going to be a long year for him sitting in the take a break chair.

Dear Parents,

September 8th, 2008

Please do not baby your children.

Thank you.


Your Child’s Kindergarten Teacher


If you are curious if you fall into that category, here’s a list of the things your child should be capable of doing by the time they go to kindergarten.

1. Put on and take off their coat.

2. Zip their coat.

3. Pull up and down their own pants.

4. Button/snap their pants.

5. Eat with a spoon or fork.

6. Hang up coat/backpack on a hook.

7. Follow simple directions (i.e. put your coat on, sit down)

8. Understand what “no” means.

9. Wait their turn.

10. Some concept of sharing.

If your kids can do these things, your kindergarten teacher will be very excited.

September 6th, 2008

With the elections coming up everyone seems to be re-examining their political beliefs and how government should work. And it seems like everyone I know in blogger land is taking the Politics Test, including me. My results suggested that I would be considered a socialist. And that didn’t really surprise me. I have an idea of what I’d like to see society look like but it’s just that, an idea. I’m grounded enough in reality to know that what I’m proposing probably won’t happen but I also know that on a small scale, it is something I can work towards and attempt to create in my own life regardless of the type of government we have.

So here it is. First, I need to say that I love the way the Church was laid out in the book of Acts and so my faith plays very heavily into this idea. Acts 2:43-45 says: Everyone around was in awe-all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s needs were met. (The Message)

This is something, as American’s, we have lost sight of (and there is more discussion on this here). There no longer is the mentality of helping out a neighbor simply because he needs help. People don’t often work together to pool their resources and live in community with one another.

People have gotten greedy. Sure, Americans donate a pile of money to various organizations, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t greedy. I think that if people were truly not greedy there would be very little poverty/starvation/famine/etc in our world (and I do realize that to fix those problems means more than just giving them money. There are corrupt governments, crazy military uprising and a whole host of other issues that need to be dealt with as well). But if people weren’t greedy for power or control or money or material possessions, would that corruptness in government even exist? Something to ponder.

What would happen if every American gave up one major toy in their life and donated the money to charity. And I’m talking toys like RV’s, boats, 2nd or 3rd cars, motorcycles, cabins, beach houses, grand vacations, expensive jewelry, plasma t.v. Seriously, that’s a ton of money. And that would be on top of whatever people are already giving.

Another part to the greed is people being selfish with their talents. Donating money is helpful, but often times it is not the answer to the problem. Sometimes in order to help someone out we need to give of our time. A lot of our time. Mentoring people on how to interview for jobs or how to manage a bank account. Helping people learn a new language, helping repair a home or car, teaching someone how to cook or sew or …?

So back to my ideal society. Here’s how I see it working:

  • It’s not forced. People choose whether or not they want to participate. What the people who don’t want to participate would do – not sure on that one. One option would be to move somewhere they did like the government.
  • It’s communal living. All resources (money, talent, time, labor, property, health care) are pooled and divided so that everyone’s needs are met. Again, this does not mean that I round up everyone’s stuff and dole it out in equal portions. It means that all the resources are available to meet everyone’s needs.
  • Health Care – could we do away with insurance companies and the red tape? That would be nice. Doctors and pharmacutical companies would also be pooling resources so if some was sick, the resources would be there to help them.
  • Government. This is where I feel communism (in its current form) fails miserably. Everyone in current situation is working and laboring for the country. The government is corrupt and the people are obviously not receiving the benefits of their labor. Now, if a government could be constructed in such away that they were actually apart of the people – their resources were part of everyone else’s resources. Another option is that the people are the government. The people as a whole vote and decide on policies and how society is run.
  • The mentality cannot be “I can do this on my own” Everyone who participates has to have the common goal of watching out for their neighbor. If you see someone is lacking in a way you can help, help them. Don’t assume someone else will take care of the problem. Here’s where my faith comes in again, it is about putting others before yourself. But remember if everyone is doing that, while you are looking out for someone else, someone else is looking out for you.
  • I’m a big fan of the “It Take a Village” motto and mentality. I don’t think people were meant to be solitary creatures. Everyone needs some time alone and some space, yes, but in general I think people would do much better if they were able to be a part of something bigger.

I’m not sure if this helps clear things up or confuses people even more. But there it is.

Great Adventure Club

July 29th, 2008

Great Adventure Club (GAC) started today at church. This year, I don’t have to run it. I’m just teaching the preschool group and so far, it’s been fun. There are 12 kids in my group from 2 1/2 – 4 yrs. old and like every other group of kids I’ve taught I have double the number of boys to girls. It’s fun teaching preschool again, but I’m glad it’s only for 4 days.

Educating Esme

June 19th, 2008

Last weekend a friend recommended the book Education Esme. I took Lexi to the library yesterday, checked out the book and finished it in the same day. It’s a quick read, but I couldn’t put it down and I will be back at the library next week checking out the rest of her books.

The short summary of the book is that Esme is a first year teacher in a fifth grade classroom in the inner-city of Chicago. And she rocks as a teacher.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

Responding to a staff member freaking out over something not worth freaking out over and missing what’s actually important:

But certain people just think it’s their job to freak out. As long as they’re freaking out, they feel busy, like they must be doing work. Getting upset is force, but no motion. Unless we are moving the children forward, we aren’t doing work. (page 52)

On making sense:

It does not make sense to say something does not make sense to someone who does not make sense, but sometimes, what else can you say? (page 60)

On being liked as a teacher:

“It’s not our job to be liked,” I reminded her. “It’s our job to help them be smart.” Secretly, I thought, Who gives a rat’s ass if they like us? Sometimes I can hardly stand them!” (page 87)

On a teacher’s day:

When someone asks me, “How was your day?” I never know what to answer. I have thirty-one days every day, a different day with each child. A good day with Ruben, a rough day with Billy…it’s too much. They talk about rewards and gratification in teaching school, and there is a share of it, but they don’t tell you it’s like joining a monastery or going to hell or sleepwalking or being afraid, afraid as you were when you were small. They don’t tell you how it feels when you get dizzy in front of a room full of children, ow what it feels like to tug at the tense bodies of children lashing, hating, fighting, spitting, scratching. They don’t tell how it feels to her “I hate you!” or how it feels to say, “That’s okay, I still love you.” They say now, in the education classes, “You have to be everything to them: counselor, mother, friend…” on and on: The List. I hear the ones who have been teaching for many years run it off with a certain pride. Well, I don’t think it’s anything to be proud of. I don’t want to play mama, I can’t play mama. They need a real mama. And they need a real teacher. (Page 160-161)

Thanks for Asking

June 5th, 2008

So what do you want to ask us about our adoption? Because now is a good time to do it. Before we are crazy busy with a new baby and so sleep deprived (hopefully not) to come up with coherent answers.

I sometimes get the feeling that people want to talk to us about it but aren’t sure what to ask or how to ask it.

Here’s the thing – just ask.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the terminology correct. We’ll help you out. We didn’t have it correct before we started this whole process either – and we’re still learning.

Don’t worry if you think it’s too personal. We’re pretty open with the whole process and if it’s something we’ve decided to keep private, we’ll say just that. And we won’t feel like you were prying.

It’s okay to talk about race, culture, and how it’s all going to tie into our life. In fact, we encourage it. We don’t expect our friends and family to become colorblind. Being Ethiopian is going to be a huge part of our child’s identity. We want him or her to be proud of that and acknowledge it. So it’s okay for you to acknowledge it as well.

And while we’re on the topic of race – go ahead, ask the hard questions. Now is the time to start thinking about how (if you are a part of this baby’s life) that you will deal with his or her race, whether it be your own stereotypes or dealing with racism that may occur while carrying on with daily life.

It’s okay to talk about money. We want people to know where the money goes. International adoption is a ridiculous amount of money and it’s important that people know that the money is all going to different places to make sure everything is done right and proper and legal.

And ask the easy questions as well – think of it like a pregnancy. Ask us if we have heard any news, ask if we’ve talked about names (okay, no, we haven’t really, so maybe you should suggest some), ask if we’ve done any decorating of the baby’s room. You know, the fun questions.

Basically, ask us what you need or want to ask us.